Issue date
30 Mar 2017

30 March 2017

Commenting on the publication today (Thursday) of the white paper on the Great Repeal Bill, which provides detail on how the government intends to bring EU-derived workers’ rights into UK law, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The proposals for the Great Repeal Bill fall short of the Prime Minister’s promise to fully protect and maintain all workers’ rights that came from the EU.

“The government proposes handing the power to change important rights and protections at work that British workers already have to judges. This means that important rules to protect workers could be overturned, without the UK Parliament having any say. The protections affected could include your rights to full holiday pay, equal pay for women, stopping indirect discrimination because of your race or gender, and help for workers when they are outsourced to a new boss.

“The government is also taking wide-ranging powers that will allow ministers to scrap or water down rights like protections from excessive working hours, equal treatment for agency workers, and redundancy protections.

“The Prime Minister needs to think again. She should carve out a specific exemption in the Great Repeal Bill to stop holes being punched in the rights that working people in Britain currently have.

“The Prime Minister must also make good on her promise to build on workers’ rights by putting them at the heart of the UK’s future trade deal with the EU. There must be a guarantee of a level playing field with our EU partners – not a race to the bottom on workplace rights. We don’t want hardworking Brits to miss out on new rights that workers in other European nations get.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:
- “We will ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected and maintained. Indeed, under my leadership, the Government will not only protect the rights of workers but build on them.” Theresa May, 29 March 2017 https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2017-03-29/debates/A6DFE4A0-6AB1-4B71-BF25-376F52AF3300/Article50
- The key problems in regard to workers’ rights with the proposals made in today’s white paper are:

  • There are no guarantees that employment protections derived from the EU will be protected in the long term.
  • The Great Repeal Bill will give the government wide-ranging powers to repeal and amend existing rules – powers which will apply to employment and equality laws.  There is a risk the government could seek to scrap or water down key workers’ rights.  The Bill should include clauses guaranteeing that the new powers cannot be used to repeal or dilute employment and equality laws.
  • The government has not committed to ensuring that UK employment laws will keep pace with new EU employment standards. 
  • Once we leave the EU, the UK Supreme Court could have the power to overturn key decisions from the European Court of Justice which protect workers’ rights – without the need to secure Parliamentary approval.   

- In recent decades, the European Union has proved an important source of rights for working people in the UK, including:

  • Key health and safety standards
  • Rights to paid holidays and protection from excessive working hours
  • Family friendly rights, including rights to paid maternity leave, protection from dismissal for pregnant women and rights to parental leave
  • Equality rights, including rights to equal pay for work of equal value, and protection from discrimination on grounds of gender, race, sexual orientation, pregnancy, disability, age, and religion and belief
  • Protections for young workers, part-time workers, agency workers and those on fixed-term contracts
  • Protections for outsourced workers
  • The right to be consulted on collective redundancies, and for unions to present an alternative
  • Measures supporting information and consultation at a national and European level
  • Rights to paid facility time for safety reps and workplace reps
  • Protections for migrant and posted workers

- The TUC believes that the Great Repeal Bill should include a non-regression clause which ensures that the government cannot use powers set out in the Bill – including Henry VIII style powers – to weaken or repeal employment or equality laws.
- All TUC press releases can be found at tuc.org.uk/media
- TUC Press Office on Twitter: @tucnews